Backyard Landscape Under Way

Before the plumbing issue, I had committed to having the backyard redone with a local landscape company and the project got under way this week. There is a neighborhood of nice ranch homes just north of us and driving through to get to the main road we noticed a home with beautiful landscaping and the company's sign in the yard. We are in the first step which is demolition - all of the remaining vegetation was removed (except for the orange tree in the opposite corner) and everything was leveled off to protect the integrity of the concrete block wall. The design was curved and the owner of the landscaping company thought it best to straighten things out for a more modern and appealing look. The brick pavers are not my design choice but it is not in the budget to remove them right now. However what I did not know was that the pavers were placed on top of a concrete patio! Unfortunately when straightening out the curves, the crew cut up the edges of the concrete. I wish someone on the crew would have let me know when they discovered it and before cutting it up because it would have been a game-changer. A concrete patio with curved edges would have been totally swanky and looking along the cut edge it seems that it may even be terrazzo. At this point I will let them complete their design and someday I will have all of the pavers removed to reveal the concrete patio below. Mother is afraid it is not in good shape but I was thinking maybe it is like hardwood floors being covered with carpet for years - it protects it over time.

I would love to know what the original design was but have found that the association has not kept detailed records of how these patio homes looked when they were first built in the mid-1960s. I was told that in the 1990s some people replaced the original breeze block which ran along the top row of the walls with plain block as was done here. I was able to see the photos from the last three real estate listings and in 2010, the breeze block was intact and the backyard appears to be live grass. I am not sure when this concrete patio came into play. Possibly it is original and the grass was grown over it back then. At any rate, this design will be a vast improvement over what the yard looked like when I purchased the home. Everything was way overgrown and closed in with walls of wood lattice, dirty outdoor fabric and garden clutter. It is very refreshing to see all of the lattice and fabric gone and the entire yard opened up. I sold the two plastic storage sheds and the composter early on, next I need to sell the garden decor. Hopefully the landscaping project will be done by the time Kuochun and I return from the Tucson Gem Show and then we will still have a couple of weeks to enjoy it. It is going to be state of the art with a computerized irrigation system which will give the correct amounts of water to the different plant and cactus varieties. The landscaper's office is only about a mile away so they will be able to monitor the yard while we are gone and make sure the plants are doing well during the hot summer months.

A mini version of the Tucson Gem Show is also held in early September every year and is on for this year. I have never attended this show but I think this will be a good time to come back to the house and check on things. I will have to prepare myself for very hot weather! The plan is for the laundry room, first floor bedroom and kitchen areas to be remodeled while we are gone this summer so we do not have to live through construction again. It is not what I originally planned, I was going to remodel the second floor to start but the plumbing issue changed everything. We have had no success with the insurance company, our agent did not even return our call after we reached out to him for help so I have hired an independent adjuster. We had a meeting with him this week and he has completed a report which is going through a peer review before it will be submitted to the insurance company. This definitely has been a learning experience, I never expected a major insurance company to be crooked. I will not get into the details here but I do not know how the insurance company's adjuster sleeps at night. I thought the reason to pay for insurance is to have peace of mind if something bad happens and this has not been the case. If this process is successful, I will need to give a percentage of the proceeds to the independent adjuster but I am a big believer in hiring specialists to the do the jobs at which they excel. Conducting estate sales for a living I know our clients are doing the right thing by hiring us. We work tirelessly to maximize the value of their household items. I am very grateful that the insurance claim for the landscape guy who broke the irrigation system when we first arrived was successful. All I had to do was submit an invoice for the repair which the new landscape company provided and the claim was promptly paid. This company is for small business insurance and I know where I will be taking my business for insurance of this type in the future!

The contractor stopped by this week as well to go over project details which we were able to hammer out. I have never had a kitchen large enough for an island before. The original idea was to change the existing "regular" island which is rectangular to an oval shape with ribbed cabinetry. Curved doors would swing out on each end to reveal storage cabinets. However Mother wants to be able to sit in a counter-height chair or stool at the island so this design will not work without a second countertop bump out to be added. We still need to work out the details on that because I love the oval island idea but still want the island to be useful for Mother. Luckily the kitchen layout is already good so we just need a few little tweaks to suit our needs. We might get a microwave oven drawer instead of having a unit on the countertop. Overall it seems like a good idea but would just be a little more challenging to clean. I do not use a microwave for cooking but only to heat up a sandwich or leftovers occasionally. I will need to keep the appliances for now but I like the style of the refrigerator with two doors on the top and a freezer drawer on the bottom. The oven has a great feature which is a small second oven with a swinging door. We went out and found little baking trays to fit and it works great for baking for two. The only thing we need to do is cut a frozen pizza in half so it will fit. The big oven has blown a fuse so at this point I will tackle that when I return next winter.

Now turning to jewelry - I received a big new lot of never worn store stock Southwest Style jewelry from Desert Rose Trading (Mine Finds by Jay King) in the mail this week. There are statement necklaces, earrings and pendants from DRT as well as jewelry from Barse and others, all nice quality pieces. Most everything has genuine semi-precious stones, jasper or agate. I had Mother set up the DRT jewelry on the kitchen island and I shot a video. It definitely helps that we have two square skylights above the island, the kitchen is flooded with light during the day. I added a title to the screen as well as some jazzy retro music. I will do some research when I have time to see if I can imbed the video without using YouTube. It looks like after the video is viewed a bunch of distracting ads pop up so I apologize for that.

I also had Mother layer a bunch of the necklaces on our model as a starting point to create a collage of products for the website and cover photos for the Facebook page. I continue to enjoy using the Pixelcut app to create square images and replace backgrounds in seconds! It will take some time to compile enough images to make a collage but at least it is a start.

The past couple of days I have been working on pricing the new jewelry as well as preparing another box (or two) to ship home. I went through all of the costume jewelry which is ready to go and pulled antique and older vintage pieces for the Johnsburg antique extravaganza sale as well as newer pieces for the "interesting costume jewelry" case which has been in circulation. The jewelry is selling well from that case so it is time to fill it in. I also polished and priced two loaded shoeboxes of wonderful antique to vintage sterling silver jewelry which we will present in Johnsburg. This jewelry has never been presented for sale before and will be a great complement to an antique sale. The jewelry for Johnsburg and the interesting costume jewelry case will be shipped home first and once I have the rest of the Desert Rose Trading lot priced it will be shipped home. That will probably do it for sending packages home this trip. Time is getting short but I am going to do my best to at least get all of the jewelry which does not need repair priced before I leave Arizona. The time taken out for the plumbing issue was not expected but all in all to get as much accomplished as we did was major. Mother wants me to bring home whatever I do not get to and I probably will end up doing that because the areas where it is currently stored will be under construction and it all has to be moved anyway.

I have been contemplating when to hold the next pop-up sale since I missed the one in early March. The weekend after Easter would be ideal because we have sales in Arlington Heights and Prospect Heights and the shoppers will be excited to get back after a week off. However it may be too soon for Mother to get all of the jewelry cases arranged. I also will be in Tucson and really want to focus on power shopping to not only hit all of my favorite vendors but source some new ones as well. The weekend after that is also a possibility because we will have a sale in Mount Prospect only five minutes away. But our other sales that weekend are far flung in Gurnee and Johnsburg. I would have to enlist help either way but since Kuochun and Margot will not be at the house it would not be bothersome for them. I will make a decision before the next newsletter goes out and report updates here. Until next time!